Zen Martial Arts Center

Sacramento Martial Arts and Karate

In Isshinryu, there are certain standards that must be attained before earning a new belt. My students know that I can be particularly picky about small details. I'm sure you have overheard me making sure that a student's stance is just right or that his posture is correct. These are standards that we all must strive to achieve--they are set for everyone. But these aren't the only requirements to earning rank in at our school.

Many of you have also committed to doing acts of kindness or community projects to earn your belts. Many of my younger students have committed themselves to getting better grades or behaving better at home. This is where we get to make our test our own--to own it. This is where, as individuals, we get to spread our wings a little and say to the world, "Yeah, I worked hard physically but this is what I bring to the table. This is what I am doing to take my martial arts out of the dojo and into the world."

You may have read my earlier journal entry about what will be expected of you to earn a black-belt. You also may have heard that this coming year, I plan to set an example of what I think this should entail. My goal for the next 13 months is to set the bar very high for others that will follow on this path. I'd like to share with you in more detail on what that means and what I hope to accomplish next year:

50,000 push-ups
50,000 sit-ups
Run/Walk/Bike 1,000 miles
1,000 Kata Repetitions
1,000 Rounds of sparring
1,000 Acts of Kindness
10,000 Acts of Kindness via my students/community
20 Hours of Boxing
50 Hours of Grappling
10 Community Service Projects
Read 12 books
15 minutes of daily meditation
Profile 10 Living Heroes
Achieve 3 Personal Victories
Integrate Okinawan-based diet
Mend 3 Relationships/Fix 3 Wrongs
Weekly Journalling
Produce 100 short film clips

In the martial arts, we train students to understand the power of little things; we LIVE the power of little things. Little things can add up to be huge accomplishments. To demonstrate how this works, we undertake some extreme tasks to earn a black belt. To achieve 50,000 push ups in a year’s time, we divide the total by 365 days (which equals just under 137 push-ups a day). We do the same with crunches, rounds of sparring, acts of kindness, and whatever it takes to propel yourself, using your own energy, 1000 miles (“The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step” --Lao Tzu)

Thus, everyday, I plan on doing the following:
• 137 push-ups
• 137 crunches
• Approximately four 3-minute rounds of sparring (any style) 5-days a week
• 3 repetitions of all Isshinryu kata
• 3 recorded conscious and purposeful acts of kindness
• Walk, run, swim, or bike 3-miles

This is in addition to reading, preparing and planning what it will take to achieve the other tasks that I have set for myself. All of these things are meant to show, by example, how the seemingly impossible can become reality with small daily effort.

Your test will look a little different than mine. A test for a full-time working mother will be different than a test for a young person just out of high school. If you want to challenge yourself this year and get into the best shape of your life (mentally, physically, and spiritually) then lets do this together. Ranks don't matter. Age and experience doesn't matter. What matters is your commitment to making the martial arts an integrated part of your life. If you are ready to take this challenge on with me, let me know. I could use some good partners.

Mike Oliver

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Comment by Chrissy Scott on November 22, 2010 at 5:14pm
Reading this gave me that lump in my throat that I get standing at the starting line of a race waiting for the "go!" That kind of firecracker-like energy is hard to come by. Just... this is really cool. This is a dojo that sets an example and it makes me really proud to be a part of it.
Comment by Chris Piper on November 9, 2010 at 1:08pm
If you'd like some company putting in miles on the bike, I ride the American River Trail once a week and usually once on the weekend. We'll rack up your miles in no time.


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